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DAWN - Opinion; February 06, 2008

February 06, 2008


What ails Pakistan

By Hassan N. Gardezi

DURING the year 2007, Pakistan witnessed a wave of disappearances, the dismantling of the higher judiciary, brutal suppression of the lawyers’ movement, a crackdown on the media and journalists, arrests and house detentions, and finally the imposition of a state of emergency on Nov 3.

On top of it all, the year saw a sharp escalation in suicide bombings that rose to 56 incidents from eight in the previous year, killing 618 people and wounding 1,657, according to the government’s own statistics. If none of these atrocities brought home the message, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27 and its aftermath sent out a signal, loud and clear, that Pakistan as a nation-state was in deep trouble.

Although one of the many crises Pakistan has seen in its short history, the depth and scale of this latest eruption is such that it will not admit of any solution short of a radical remaking of the country’s political culture and institutions.

But before anything can be done to restore the long-term stability and security of Pakistan, there has to be political consensus on what needs to be done immediately to bring a modicum of normality to the present political situation in order to move forward towards establishing a legitimate representative government that can deal with the monumental tasks ahead. There are two options in this respect being already debated and pursued in the country.

One of these options or line of action is to go ahead with the elections under the present set-up, originally slated for Jan 8 and postponed to Feb 18, after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Interestingly, the path to this option was opened as a result of a US-sponsored plan to prop up Gen Musharraf’s regime, besieged by protests in the summer of 2007, by giving it a democratic façade.

Under this plan or ‘power-sharing deal’, brokered by US diplomats, Musharraf cleared the way for Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan and seek re-election to the position of prime minister, and in return she agreed that her party (the PPP) would not oppose Musharraf’s election to the president’s office for another five-year term. On Oct 6, Musharraf was elected president of Pakistan for a second term by the outgoing parliament as the opposition parties boycotted the vote and Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan on Oct 18 to launch her election campaign to become prime minister.

It is true that after the state of emergency was imposed on Nov 3, and Benazir Bhutto was placed under house arrest between Nov 9 and 13, she began to urge President Musharraf to resign. But the main focus of her party has remained on winning the elections under the present set-up. Those who still speak for the Pakistan People’s Party believe that despite the strong possibility of rigging, they will win the elections, and any change in the present set-up presided over by Musharraf can wait until their electoral victory is accomplished.

Beyond this calculation, they neither seem to have the patience nor the willingness to articulate in any detail their strategic or programmatic plan of action to be pursued after the election is over. The only two major items of the PPP’s agenda spelled out clearly by Ms Bhutto in her short-lived electoral campaign after her return to Pakistan comprised stronger cooperation in the American ‘war on terror’ and the ending of extremist religious violence at home. (Whether the two objectives can be pursued successfully at the same time is another matter).

Nevertheless, it is quite likely that barring a major rigging effort which cannot be ruled out, the PPP can easily win a majority in the national parliament if elections are held as scheduled. The tragic death of Benazir Bhutto has created an emotional upsurge of popular electoral support for her party. Even large segments of party supporters who for various reasons had previously become disenchanted with the PPP now seem to be ready to vote for it, no matter by whom and how the party is run.

The other mainstream opposition party, the PML-N, has also taken up the electoral option, but it is vocally critical of the set-up under which these elections are going to be held. Its leader Nawaz Sharif who was finally allowed to return to Pakistan from his exile on Nov 25 wants the installation of an interim government without Musharraf to establish suitable conditions for fair and free elections. While PPP leaders want elections to be held immediately, Nawaz Sharif will accept even some delay to ensure the fairness and transparency of the electoral process.

With his own nomination papers rejected by the present election commission, Nawaz Sharif seems to have assumed a position of philosophical detachment on who comes to power as a result of the next elections, so long as Musharraf is out of the picture. As for the electoral strength of the PML-N, it has considerable following in Punjab. It had a majority of parliamentary seats in the Nawaz Sharif government that was overthrown in 1999 by the Musharraf coup. Many leaders of the PML-N who defected to form the ‘king’s party’ under Musharraf, the PML-Q, have or intend to return to their original party.

The second option or line of action that is open as a starting point for a durable solution of Pakistan’s problems is more of an extension of the ongoing lawyers’ movement which erupted in March 2007 when Gen Musharraf for the first time forced the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, out of office. Among the politicians Imran Khan, the head of the Tehrik-i-Insaaf, is an outspoken advocate of this line of action. It is based on the premise that Pakistan cannot move forward unless the present crooked set-up, contrived by Musharraf’s authoritarian regime, is quashed and the rule of law restored.

In my next article I shall write about the transition to a democratic government in Pakistan.

The writer, a professor emeritus of sociology and anthropology, is author of ‘Chains to Lose: The Life and Struggle of a Revolutionary’.

Black sheep

By Hafizur Rahman

I ONCE asked an elderly aunt what black goats had done to deserve discriminatory treatment. I don’t know about non-Muslims, but we Muslims sacrifice this animal on the slightest pretext.

Anyone escaping a calamity, like an accident or bankruptcy or dismissal from service, at once goes for a black goat which is promptly killed and its meat given away to the poor and the needy. She had no answer. On the other hand sheep are lucky in this respect, though black sheep are in a category by themselves, as this piece sets out to show.

How did the expression become so popular in the bureaucracy that every officer uses it to malign certain subordinates? Every prime minister in Pakistan (even the present caretaker PM) voices his determination to do away with them at the earliest opportunity. Of course, we know that these heads of government and heads of state always fail in this determination. But that does not prevent them from condemning such subordinates.

However, I have observed that they never describe the method that they are going to adopt for the purpose of getting rid of black sheep. I mean, whether the black sheep would be converted into white sheep (as the great Dr Mahbubul Haq as finance minister of Pakistan once succeeded in changing black money into white money) or whether the black sheep would be eliminated altogether under a pogrom copied from Hitler’s Nazi regime in pre-World War II to do away with the Jews.

We also do not know whether the criterion for determining the black and white sheep among the bureaucracy will be devised by government officers themselves or by the public. There is no doubt about which type of officer is considered black sheep by the people. But so far as my experience as a public servant goes, bureaucrats usually think of the popular ones among them as the real black sheep; they are un-officer-like, fun-spoilers, and the bone in the kabab, as they say in Urdu.

Maybe, the caretaker prime minister has a criterion all his own based on the higher national interest and his own political philosophy. The result of this uncertainty can only be that the poor officers (are there any poor officers?) will remain in a state of suspense as to who is going to be whitewashed and who is going to lose his skin.

If the bureaucracy does raise this point the PM will have to get an ordinance passed to equate sheep with goats to overcome the objection, Already, from the veterinary angle, there is not much difference between a sheep and a goat. Even if there is, it couldn’t be more than the difference between Natha Singh and Prem Singh. Since young readers may not have heard the story, I’ll take the liberty of repeating it here.

After parade one day, Natha Singh, a sepoy in the British Indian army, asked his British officer for a month’s leave. The officer said OK and going back to his office wrote out the order. Soon afterwards the Subedar Major presented his respects and said, “Sahib, it was Natha Singh who asked for leave. You have granted it to Prem Singh.” Unruffled, the Sahib replied, “Oh man, what difference does it make. Natha Singh, Prem Singh, comes to the same thing.” The PM too can say, “So far as officers are concerned, I see no difference between a black goat and a black sheep.”

But the PM would be well advised to drop the scheme altogether. It is not going to get him anywhere, except increase his difficulties other than the ones he will face when he is no longer in power. For don’t forget the bureaucracy includes the police which can be very vindictive. One can imagine a fat thanedar using his most biting sarcasm and the choicest invective while addressing him. “Oye, you called us black sheep, did you? I’ll show you what a black sheep is.”

In Pakistan no political government can function effectively without the help of senior officers. All our governments, whether federal or provincial, love to employ extracurricular methods to frustrate their opponents and make them see reason. As people in Sindh will understand chief ministers like old Jam Sadiq Ali would not have lasted a week if his officers had refused to follow his questionable orders but they dared not. It is always the bureaucracy which is found to be the most useful agency and the most innovative for this purpose. Officers stand to gain by remaining in the good books of the chief executive.

For instance, in my time as a public servant and as a journalist, I have heard scores of political leaders warning the police that when they come into power they will sort it out. The policemen just listen and smile. Because they know that as soon as these leaders get the opportunity to rule, they too will want to rule through the police. Perhaps this is what they mean by sorting them out. The prime minister would do well, therefore, to reconsider the whole idea of taking on the black sheep in the bureaucracy.

Whether you call them goats or sheep, and whether they are black, white or multi-coloured, they are going to go on as they are. Nothing can change their habits. Unless, of course, a man of God, a real mujahid, springs from the soil of Pakistan to reform our whole society. In that case the black sheep, who are a very clever lot, will automatically throw off their skins and turn white.

How credible is national data?

By Dr Sadia M. Malik

“THERE are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” This famous statement by a wise statesman Benjamin Disraeli is radical no doubt but somehow fits very well into our present context.

The economic crisis we face began with an atta crisis and power shortage, and has finally moved on to engulf the domain of national income accounts and data collection as well. There seems to be confusion about the credibility of data regarding major economic indicators in Pakistan. Although, the government has clarified its position by reiterating that the establishment of a commission to look into the present numbers is just meant to expand the coverage of industrial data, there are vital issues in the collection of data that must be discussed and put on the table for this important commission to review.

The significance of collecting accurate, reliable and up-to-date data on vital economic and social indicators cannot be over-emphasised as it is the basis of sound economic policies. Economic policies are bound to be flawed if the data that underlies them is flawed. The Federal Bureau of Statistics has made some progress in recent years in improving the data collection machinery and expanding the coverage of socioeconomic indicators.

The Pakistan Living Standards Measurement Survey and the Pakistan Integrated Household Survey contain important data on social and economic indicators. But there are a number of things that the government as well international development agencies can do to improve the reliability of these statistics.

First, the data collected by government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Statistics must be made public at least to independent economists and experts who can verify the sampling technique as well as the methodology underlying the computation of such indicators as economic growth, poverty rates and inflation. A small variation in the methodology can create huge discrepancies in actual numbers and can jeopardise their comparability over time.

Second, statistics on vital socioeconomic indicators must be counterchecked using alternative measures. This can either be achieved by conducting small-scale surveys by independent organisations that can be funded by international development agencies. There can be no better use of international development aid than to finance the independent collection of accurate data on important socioeconomic indicators. Clearly, it is in the interest of these development agencies as well to have accurate and reliable information/data on important aspects of the economy in order to formulate their policies and implement their development agendas.

Take the example of monitoring the progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) adopted by the United Nations in 2000. How can progress on the achievement of these goals be monitored if data pertaining to related indicators is inconsistent and unreliable?

I happened to attend a meeting organised by the ministry of health some time ago to discuss the progress achieved on MDG goals related to maternal health. It was quite ironical to see a marked discrepancy between the maternal mortality rate as reported by Unicef and that reported by the government. According to Unicef data, the maternal mortality rate in Pakistan had shot up from 200 in 1995 to 320 per 100,000 in 2005. Government statistics tell an opposite story. The irony is that the agencies that are responsible for monitoring progress on MDG goals are not clear about which data they should use.

There is thus an urgent need for an independent data collection agency that can supplement and verify official statistics. This can also be achieved through small-scale people’s perception surveys that can be used, for example, to collect information on whether people think that their standard of living has gone up or deteriorated over the past 10 years or so.

Third, in certain cases, such as poverty data for example, we must go beyond traditional measures and look for others that supplement this important indicator and provide alternative proxies. The standard way of defining poverty is through income or consumption which is an important, albeit only one, dimension of poverty.

In reality, poverty is a multidimensional concept and manifests itself in several forms of deprivations that people face on a day-to-day basis such as a premature end to life, lack of education, denial of a tolerable level of living and inadequate healthcare.

One such measure is the poverty of opportunity index (POPI) developed by the late Dr Mahbub ul Haq. This is a composite measure that incorporates not only income but also a number of indicators related to health and education. The recent estimate of poverty of opportunity index for Pakistan as calculated by the Mahbub-ul-Haq Human Development Centre indicates that this number is much higher than the estimate based on income poverty alone. This shows that a considerably greater number of people in Pakistan are denied access to health and education other than simply income. This discrepancy turns out to be much higher in the case of Pakistan as compared to other South Asian countries, casting doubts on the reliability of poverty estimates in Pakistan.

There are a number of important areas in which information is not available. For example, in the area of gender discrimination and violence there seems to be a complete absence of nationally representative data. Civil society and international development agencies talk much about gender discrimination and violence against women, but apart from very small area-specific and outdated surveys, do we have nationally representative data?

It is time that the government and other stakeholders increased their commitment towards the collection of sound, transparent and accurate data. It is not only the right of the people to have access to reliable data on indicators that are of direct relevance to them, it is also essential for the formulation of sound economic and development policies.

We have witnessed a widening gap over the last few years between official claims and public perceptions. In no other area has this been more evident than the economy. The public at large seems hesitant to accept official claims of economic growth and poverty reduction.

If the government is serious about reducing this trust deficit it must ensure the provision of transparent and independently verified national data. An important and far-reaching step in this regard could be to grant a fully autonomous status to the Federal Bureau of Statistics, devoid of all official pressures. This is in no way less important than ensuring the independence of the State Bank of Pakistan.

The writer is the director of Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre, Islamabad.

Restoring rule of law

By Khalid Jawed Khan

WHILE Mr Pervez Musharraf may be a fortunate man to have weathered many a storm, his continuing personal fortune is taking a heavy toll on the people and the country.

Never have the people been so devoid of hope and full of despair as they now are. Nor has the future of the country ever looked as bleak.

The tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto has caused immeasurable and irreparable damage to the country. She was a leader of international stature. She not only represented the hopes and aspirations of millions of people all over the country, she also symbolised the unity of the federation.

The government was under an obligation to provide her adequate security. It not only failed to fulfil that obligation, its functionaries even acted in a highly irresponsible manner in the aftermath of the tragedy. The PPP addressed a letter to the caretaker prime minister requesting a probe by the UN, and the letter remained unanswered.

Instead, Mr Musharraf, as usual, usurping the role of the prime minister, responded by not only ridiculing and rejecting the PPP’s demand in a very casual manner, he even blamed the victim for being the cause of her own death. If the country had an independent judiciary, neither would the PPP have been compelled to seek a UN probe nor would Mr Musharraf have dared to act as he did.

The Musharraf era has witnessed the worst law and order situation in the country. A substantial part of the NWFP has been turned into a war zone. While there was no concept of Pakistani Taliban until a few years ago, today this menace not only exists but is proliferating and challenging the writ of the state in many parts of the country. The machinery of the state appears helpless in the face of the rising tide of violence and lawlessness in the country.

While the Musharraf era has corroded the fabric of our polity and weakened all national institutions, its most damaging legacy will be the decimation of the Constitution, the judiciary and the rule of law in the country.

General Musharraf subverted the Constitution twice in order to save his office. Yet, in spite of all his efforts and pretensions to the contrary, the fact remains that he has never been truly and legitimately elected to any public office. His first term as president through a sham referendum was as fraudulent as his re-election for the second term.

To pre-empt the judgment of the Supreme Court on the issue of his qualification/disqualification, he imposed his second martial law on Nov 3, 2007, in the garb of an extra-constitutional emergency. By one stroke, the Constitution was suspended and all independent-minded judges of the superior judiciary were forcibly removed from their office. The independent electronic media was silenced so that government lies, distortions and propaganda were not exposed and challenged before the public.

During the last eight years, Mr Musharraf has demonstrated an unmistakable and unexceptionable personal trait. He only acts under foreign pressure. The manner in which he succumbed to pressure following a phone call in the aftermath of 9/11 even surprised the caller, Gen Colin Powell.

The United States was keen to see him relinquish the office of COAS and restore the semblance of civilian rule by revoking the emergency. He duly obliged. However, as the US was not keen to see the restoration of an independent judiciary, as recently confirmed by Mr Richard Boucher, the deposed judges remain incarcerated while the general donned the garb of a civilian president and slouched through transition to his sham democracy.

Our history shows that after forcibly and illegally usurping power, every dictator has tried to comfort and delude himself by extracting condonation from a captive judiciary and then conjuring up legal instruments validating his rule. General Musharraf has been no exception. Indeed, he has only improved upon the performance of his predecessors by creating this façade twice over.

Before revoking the proclamation of emergency on Dec 15, 2007, Gen Musharraf purportedly amended the Constitution by promulgating the Constitution (Amendment) Order, 2007, vide President’s Order No.5 of 2007 dated 21.11.07. Further amendments were made by the Constitution (Second Amendment) Order 2007, vide President’s Order No.6 of 2007 dated 14.12.07. The source of his legal authority to amend the Constitution is his admitted unconstitutional action of Nov 3, 2007.

By these enactments he has purported to amend/add different provisions to the Constitution. He also purportedly legalised his illegal and extra-constitutional actions taken since Nov 3, 2007, including removal of the judges of the superior judiciary.

Although Mr Musharraf and his advisors have repeatedly claimed that the amendments to the Constitution made by him during the Nov 3-Dec 15, 2007, period have become part of the Constitution, the fact remains that these enactments have no legal sanctity or legitimacy save for very limited purpose under the de facto doctrine. These could not become an integral part of the Constitution until and unless ratified by the new parliament through the procedure prescribed under Articles 238 and 239 of the Constitution.

Thus, all actions taken from Nov 3 to Dec 15, 2007, by Gen Musharraf, including the forcible removal of judges, were and remain completely illegal and unconstitutional. With profound respect, even the honourable Supreme Court, which is itself a creation of the Constitution by virtue of Article 175, does not have any lawful authority or jurisdiction to condone, validate or legitimise this subversion of the Constitution or any action or legal instrument which jeopardises the basic structure of the Constitution of which the independent judiciary is a cornerstone.

Therefore, all those honourable judges who were forcibly removed from office on Nov 3, 2007, still hold their respective office albeit illegally and forcibly restrained at gunpoint from performing their constitutional functions.

Therefore, there is no legal constraint in the restoration of these honourable judges. The notifications issued by the ministry of law and justice whereby these honourable judges were purportedly removed from their offices could be lawfully rescinded by that ministry in exercise of power under Section 21 of the General Clauses Act, 1897. With the issuance of these notifications rescinding earlier notifications, these honourable judges would be immediately restored to their respective offices.

The duly elected government which comes to power after the general elections owes it to the people that its first cabinet decision should be to instruct the ministry of law and justice to issue the notifications rescinding the illegal, mala fide and unconstitutional notifications issued after the proclamation of emergency on Nov 3, 2007, for the removal of the judges. Thereafter, the nation can go about electing a new president in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution as it stood prior to Nov 3, 2007. As for Mr Musharraf, the best course for him would be to heed the advice of his brother ex-servicemen before it is too late.

With a new parliament and a new elected president, the nation can start a new journey and shed the divisive and nightmarish legacy of the past eight years. There is much ‘truth and reconciliation’ that is required to be done in a post-Musharraf Pakistan. The earlier we start the process of transition to the new era, the better it will be for the country.

Killing Kenya

Melitus Mugabe Were was a rarity among Kenyan politicians, a moderate who straddled the divides rending the country. He was a man who could have mediated between extremists in both the ruling party and the opposition. He could have, that is, if thugs hadn’t pulled up beside his Mercedes as he stopped at the gate in front of his Nairobi home last week, dragged him out of his car and pumped bullets into his eye and heart. He had just turned 39.

Kenya’s problems have roots that go much deeper than a spat between rival parties. When President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected Dec 27 in a tally riddled with fraud and other irregularities, it touched off a tribal and class conflict that had been simmering for years. Kibaki is a member of the dominant Kikuyu tribe, which makes up about 22 per cent of the population but enjoys a disproportionate share of the country’s land, wealth and political power.

The other 40-odd tribes have long resented the Kikuyu, especially the Kalenjin and Luo, who feel they were victimised by an unequal land distribution policy during the colonial period that benefited the Kikuyu.

Were was a member of the Luhya tribe from Odinga’s opposition party. Yet he rejected the tribal politics that have prompted other Kenyan leaders, including both Kibaki and Odinga, to incite their followers to further violence. Ironically, his murder was used to promote yet more violence. In Kenya’s immature democracy, the demagogues are in charge; someday they’ll give way to people more like Were. If any survive. —Los Angerles Times

© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2008